B+LNZ Environmental Policy Manager Julia Beijeman: “If a farmer stands up and articulates why a policy is not good, that speaks with a lot more volume to the decision makers than us saying it on their behalf.
“Our approach is about giving them the skills to articulate their points in a way that has weight with the decision makers.”
Southland and Waikato activity
To that end, three submission workshops were piloted in Southland while the Southland Land and Water Plan was being consulted over July and August 2016. More than 300 farmers attended.
More recently, Waikato farmers were involved in nine workshops, formulating their submissions to the Healthy Rivers Plan Change document. That resulted in conversations with more than 700 farmers.
What does a workshop involve?
The two-hour workshop format kicks off an overview of the key policy issues, before farmers are asked what they “like, wish and wonder” about the proposed policy. The information is then discussed as a group and farmers are given tips on how to communicate their ideas in language that will resonate with policy makers, increasing the likelihood of farmers affecting change.
The second half of the workshop involves farmers drafting their submissions, with the B+LNZ environment team on hand to help.
Is it working?
Farmer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with people saying they actually enjoyed the workshop and the energy in the room.
More importantly, the workshops have translated into action. The Southland Regional Council received about 900 submissions. Of those, more than half were from sheep and beef farmers.
Julia says the submissions she has seen were spot on – simple, with clear messages to the policy makers and excellent alternatives suggested.